SPIRITUAL HEAD OF THE MUHAMMEDANS 151
is a natural right of man, we cannot say that it is properly applied. In Islam this principle is properly applied, and one is allowed to do anything that is neither harmful to oneself nor to one's fellow-creatures.
"In the early days of Islam it was the practice of the authorities to set apart portions of mosques for the teaching of religious and laic knowledge. Large mosques assumed the appearance of universities, especially when students' hostels and" teachers' rooms were annexed to them. Money was bequeathed for the maintenance of these institutions. El Azhar was one of those mosques. When, in the seventh century of the Flight of the Prophet, Baghdad lay in ruins at the feet of the invading Tartars and the Caliph was abolished, King Alsahir Bibars took under his protection one of the sons of the Abbaside princes and made him Caliph. King Bibars reopened El Azhar after teaching in it had been suspended for a time, showering his grants on it. Consequently, El Azhar gained renown, and attracted many students who repaired to it from far and near in quest of learning. In due course, it became the largest and most important of Islamic universities in the world. It gradually developed until it became a public institution for Muslims in their entirety. No doubt this is a great distinction, which was not attained by any other mosque.
"The reforms I am introducing into El Azhar are to afford the students the opportunity of extending their mental and cultural horizon in all branches of knowledge.
"In its search for the truth, Islam commends logical reasoning. It condemns blind imitation and upbraids those who practise it. Saith the Lord:
" 'And when it is said to them: "Follow ye that which God hath sent down," they say: "Nay, we follow the usages which we found with our fathers." What, though their fathers knew nothing and were devoid of guidance.' "
"Can Islam fit the needs of the modern age, increasingly educated in science and tending to be entirely practical?"
"How could Islam, which is based on requirements of human nature and reason; which requires its followers^ to seek and augment their knowledge and to discharge their duties properly—